MAGICAL THINKING: True Stories

Augusten Burroughs, Author . St. Martin's $23.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-312-31594-8

A psychological term, "magical thinking" describes the belief that one exerts more influence over events than one actually does. Burroughs, who spent childhood days stepping on cracks to see if his mother's back would break, possesses a wealth of magical thought. Like Dry and Running with Scissors , this collection showcases Burroughs's sharp, funny and sometimes brilliant writing. Burroughs views his life through a lens of self-deprecation, and the result is pieces like "My Last First Date," describing the first time he met his current boyfriend. After only a short conversation, he fumbles into joking about his life, to the horror of his date, and realizes, "I must ease people into the facts of me, not deposit large, undigested chunks of my history at their feet. Too much of me is toxic." Fortunately, his companion has a high threshold for toxicity, and most readers will, too. Burroughs's smooth prose, peppered with charming and awkward moments, is occasionally reminiscent of David Sedaris and David Rakoff. But he's no imitator of those essayists. Rather, Burroughs ambles toward insight in a continual state of self-examination and just happens to have peculiar adventures along the way, like drowning a mouse in his bathtub, attending the Barbizon School of Modeling and complaining that the "new gay thing in Manhattan" is adopting babies instead of buying shar-pei puppies. Agent, Christopher Schelling. (On sale Oct. 5)

Forecast: St. Martin's is making a big push for Burroughs's third book: a 17-city tour and national broadcast, print and radio publicity, which should result in another bestseller.

Reviewed on: 07/12/2004
Release date: 10/01/2004
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